Before you register your domain name, it’s important to know a thing or two about well-optimised domains. By well-optimised we mean that your domain should be easily searchable, and that your customers should have no issues finding your site. We suggest avoiding hard to spell words, special characters and in most cases, hyphens.
Learn more: ‘How to choose a domain name’
Are hyphens allowed in domain names?
Hyphens (also known as dashes) are the only acceptable spacing character that can be included in a domain name. But it’s still a hot topic as to whether or not they should be used, and if their use has any impact on SEO.
In this blog, we’ll take a look at the best practice for hyphens in domain names, and run through any instances where it might actually be beneficial to use them.
Can hyphens in domain names affect SEO?
According to a former Google employee Matt Cutts, the search engine’s algorithm doesn’t penalise sites with hyphens in their domain names. In fact, hyphens are considered preferable over alternative spacing characters like underscores. For more info about choosing an SEO-friendly domain name, take a look at our helpful guide.
But even though hyphens aren’t technically detrimental, there are several other compelling reasons to avoid them, like memorability, branding and more.
Things to consider when choosing your domain name
Hyphens generally decrease how memorable your URL is at a glance. This can mean potential visitors end up going somewhere else, just because they forgot to add in that pesky hyphen. This opens the door to potential typosquatters looking to benefit from your visitors’ mistakes. Domain names which are simple to pronounce are – by default – easier to remember, so it’s worth sounding out your different options and thinking about which might be the simplest to type.
Number of characters
There’s no technical drawback to a longer domain name, but the statistics speak for themselves. Of the five most popular websites in the world, the average domain length is only six characters, so the evidence suggests that the briefer the domain name, the better. Depending on the project, a hyphen might add unnecessary length to your domain name, so it’s worth trying out both variations.
Is it brand-friendly?
The other risk of putting hyphens in your domain name is that it could compromise the credibility of your brand, or be interpreted as spammy. Hyphens between words are sometimes used by cybercriminals as a means of imitating an official website with a similar domain name or email address. It’s ultimately a judgement call, but remember: avoiding a negative perception of your brand is just as important as memorability.
Putting hyphens in your domain name might impact customers when they go to search for your site, but what about the customers who hear about your business via word of mouth? Using Coca-Cola as an example, many people forget about the hyphen in the middle because they aren’t easily communicable in daily conversations. So, consider how easy it is for your domain name to be expressed through talking, as this may impact your site’s searchability.
When should you use a hyphen in a domain name?
While some suggest that hyphens should be dodged at all costs – there are circumstances where they might be unavoidable. For example:
If your brand or project name consists of several consecutive words, including a hyphen could actually improve the readability of your domain. Similarly, if your brand name already features a hyphen, including one in your URL is good for consistency. For example, the UK domain for Coca-Cola is www.coca-cola.co.uk, and this clearly hasn’t hindered performance, although the competition isn’t that steep (*cough* Pepsi).
On top of this, some words – when put side by side – take on a different meaning, and you can easily avoid this by separating them with a dash.
Defensive domain registration
Another scenario where it might be beneficial to buy a domain with a hyphen is if you’re practising defensive domain registration. This is when you intentionally purchase different variations of a website’s main domain name to stop competitors from buying them. As a result, you prevent your competitors getting wayward traffic from visitors that were aiming for your site.
Learn more: Why you should register domain typos
The bottom line is, using hyphens in domain names is generally worth avoiding. Even if they won’t explicitly impact your site’s SEO, they could have a negative effect on memorability or the perception of your brand if used incorrectly.
Not sure if the domain name you’re looking for is available? You’ll quickly find out with our handy domain name search tool. We’ve registered over 1.2 million domains in our time, so feel free to get in touch with any questions – our sales team will be happy to help.